So I dove back into my research and plucked this tidbit out today: The Sagan Standard. Now, Carl Sagan isn’t technically a character in my novel, but he’s certainly a presence (and quite an unexpected one, if I say so myself!) I’ve been a big Carl Sagan fan since I was a little kid — I can remember sitting in my family’s living room watching Cosmos with my parents. In high school, I discovered his books. Pale Blue Dot, The Demon-Haunted World, Billions and Billions — whether I realized it or not at the time, those books had a significant impact on who I am today.
Anyway, let’s talk about the Sagan Standard…
The term refers to an aphorism used by Sagan in his television series Cosmos that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” What’s so great about this statement is how effectively it encapsulates the tenents of the scientific method. When put to use, it pushes the use of critical thinking, rational thought, and skepticism above all else. Sagan would use this concept when exploring claims of UFOs and alien abductions. And you can see how the idea can easily be applied to everything from ghost sightings to spiraling political conspiracy theories.
In my novel, Michael, a White House advisor to the Reagan administration, reflects on the Sagan Standard when Mrs. Reagan declares that, ahem, her husband and president Ronald Reagan is an imposter hell-bent on nuclear war. Michael can’t help but think the idea is preposterous. When asked if she has any proof of such a claim, Mrs. Reagan has nothing. Instead, it’s simply a gut feeling, a hunch, that is seemingly confirmed by the first lady’s personal astrologer, of all people.
Now, being an over-the-top-thriller, it shouldn’t surprise you THAT SHE’S RIGHT, lol. But the idea of the Sagan Standard is something that I can’t help but think we need more of today. As misinformation and conspiracies become more mainstream and weaponized, keep Carl Sagan and this aphorism in mind.
Oh, and read my book! Thanks!